Philando Castile and the Institution

I’ve watched the Philando Castile cop cam, in full. I have a lot of words. A ton. To begin, this issue of the situation not being racist because we have a Latino cop killing a black citizen: Let’s take it up to a broader perspective – of an institution being prejudiced against communities and types of people. A cop doesn’t have to be white to be racist. A person, doesn’t have to be white to be bigoted, prejudiced, racist, etc. The institution that a cop is in, is the in-fluencer, and all decisions – good and bad – spill out from there. That institution has specific ways of looking at people. Does not matter if the individual person doesn’t fit the profile. Doesn’t matter if it’s a white, upper class suburban mom profile or a white, poverty level single male – that institution functions on categorizing people as one way of sizing up a situation. I get it. And, it’s failing. It’s failing all of us. It seems so obvious, to me, that our police force needs extensive training in RELATING with AND disarming people. There’s a LOT of killing going on when it seems that – disarming an individual would be most appropriate and potentially, less devastating. There’s always maiming and paralysis as outcomes. Also not good. In this case, if the man really was a threat, seated, in his car, with his kid and his girlfriend, after telling the officer that he had a firearm, in a calm voice, then yes, shooting him in the arm, or leg, once, may have been appropriate. We have a lot of terrified cops shooting to kill. This tells me several things:

1. It is reasonable and right that I continue to be terrified of cops. That my skin LITERALLY crawls when I pass by one in a car, or, on the street.

2. People in these positions of authority are piss poorly – that’s my first choice of words – inadequately, might be more palatable to others – trained to deal with stress, intensity and potentially dangerous situations, with anything other than lethal force.

3. This institution has far too much power to kill and too little accountability, and sense of responsibility, for the lives taken, or the lives put into harms way. As an institution, there seems to be too little sense of responsibility for the humanity it claims to serve and protect. As, individuals, I have no doubt, there are still officers who feel the weight of their work, as it relates to other human beings, inside and outside their personal comfort zones.

4. The military may not be a perfect example, but the little I do remember, is that there are consequences to poor judgement and bad behavior – for lesser offenses than taking a life.

5. I am curious to know if the NRA offered support for Mr. Castile’s legal permit to carry.

6. I read some of the piss poor comments that passed for human thinking, in the threads, and there was a common theme – that he should have announced that he has a permit to carry, instead of just saying he was carrying a firearm. To that, I return the argument that defends the officer who killed him, by saying, it was a stressful situation, and he didn’t get all his words out, beyond the important words, Sir, I have a firearm. Which, were delivered calmly and respectfully, in response to the officers request that he pull out his license and registration… Calmly and respectfully, as post-humously suggested, by many, brilliant commenters.

7. And, then there are the comments white skinned folks made about how Philando Castile should have just done what he was told to do – which, he did motherfuckers.

The cop was fucking terrified, that much was clear after he shot the man, and had no business handling a routine pullover, if he couldn’t negotiate someone declaring a weapon, without resorting to shooting, a few seconds later.

And, yeah, I’m not a cop. I don’t know the stress/fear they work with. I am however, a citizen who may be pulled over or stopped and I have absolutely every fucking right to expect that someone who can kill me, as part of their day to day function on a job, will have more skill at engaging the public and diffusing conflict, than I do as an ordinary, non-lethal weapon carrying citizen of this sometimes excrutiatingly, fear-filled and hateful country.

Cops are terrified of black and brown people and instead of up-leveling the institutions’ defensive skills training, de-escalation skills (it was the officer who escalated here) and community development and involvement (if you’re going to be given permission to take a life you should damn well be close enough to it to know what you’re taking) – they’re killing people and being excused, in sympathy, for doing a scary job and making a regrettable mistake. It’s not ok people. There is nothing about it that is ok.

Body Image and the Dance of Dialogue

Conversations… body Image

My posts won’t be perfect conversations, perfectly reasoned and articulated. My current editor is over worked and under resourced, so, that expectation is done and set down.

These are conversations, and in conversing, we share ideas and experiences, forth and back and see where we end up during and after the ride. What I share here is another perspective on one of many body image conversations any one of us can get into and the examples I offer here are just one in billions of potential examples. Of course, there are many other angles I could have come to this from, but that’s where you come in. Your experience and stories contribute to the shape, texture and weight of a topic, that so many can relate with, in spite of apparent differences and privileges in culture.

When we shut people down because their story doesn’t match our story, we are shutting the conversation down and a shut down conversation gets us nowhere past where we already are.

I’m asking that we do less of that and more of allowing the range of voices to build the conversation.

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There’s this social belief that there are certain parts of the population that can’t talk about or challenge norms around weight, color, age, sex, gender and every other construct we have built into our social structures.

Example: A woman who is 5’8 120lbs can’t know what she’s talking about when she encourages a woman socially ‘over weight’ to consider loving herself. I call it socially overweight, because through my eyes, there’s a difference between carrying weight that is physically damaging to the body (might be best to change) and weight that simply challenges the eyeballs of advertisers (not necessarily needing to be changed). We say, it’s easy for you to talk about loving yourself because you fit the norm, skinny bitch. And skinny bitch, if she feels self-consciousness and agrees that she’s out of line and arrogant for saying the words, then she is also buying into the idea that her build is the ideal, shrinking from the conversation and shutting it down on her end.

That’s one of the sneaky catches: oh, my gosh, how dare I say things to help break the illusion that my sister is un-beautiful because she doesn’t look like me? How dare I step out of line and embrace more than myself? Shaming, shaming, shaming, all the way around. Never mind that we miss the point that people who are considered socially beautiful are highly qualified to lead the expansion of what is celebrated as beautiful.

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This is a conversation worth having, for so many reasons, and in this piece, I’m challenging our generalized acceptance of what is desirable and our unquestioned ideas of how other people move through the world and what insecurities and vulnerabilities the people around us carry with them based on where they’ve come from and what they are taught about beauty and desirability. Even the skinny ones.

Example: I’m a skinny girl. I’ve been told again and again that I can’t understand what it is to be heavy in a culture that worships skinny and shames not skinny. And, what people are saying when they say you can’t understand is, you can’t talk about this because you have nothing of value to contribute because you have no experience with it.

Ok, yes, I don’t know what that’s like. I bought that particular shut down for a while, until I realized the conversation about size, weight and shape, is also about perception, cultural orientation, experience and beliefs. I didn’t grow up hearing I was fat, or, too fat. I grew up hearing I was too skinny (and too pale. And too dark. All at the same time) That I needed to eat. I needed meat on my bones. That men wanted thick women. Something to hold onto.  That childbirth was especially painful for women with narrow hips. Really, ninth grade right there… who says that to a ninth grader? That I had a white girls’ body. That one, not what a brown girl, wanting to be darker and rounder wants to hear.

Yeah, not the narrative we typically hear about weight and body image, but part of a true story out there in the world.

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There was and is nothing I can do to change the size and shape of my body to the degree that I was hearing I needed to in order to be desirable by the people I desired to be desirable to, and legitimized by, at that time. What did that translate into? I felt too skinny – translation – hideous – in my body, in my clothing. I did what some women do, I buried myself in clothes too big, I stayed small as I could – vocally and visually. And, sure, a reader can say, so what, you’re still in the desired majority in terms of body type. Sure, fine, but a woman ill at ease in her skin is still shrinking from life, hiding to protect and defend. Regardless of the details of a story, the common theme is shrinking, protection, hiding to feel safe. Even if we are hiding behind very revealing clothing, as a fuck you to the world and forcefully loud behavior. That’s another potential path of coping.

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It’s the same thing on the other side of a woman who hears she’s too big for the culture at large. Puns. No puns. Whatever.

Why is this even important, the expansion of the parameters of who gets to tell her story and be heard and held?  Women need the support and connection of other women. Women of all shapes and sizes and colors and physicality need to be able to openly support one another in our walks back to reclaiming ourselves, as ourselves, and when we shut one another down because Our stories don’t fit the narrative of oppression and rejection and shaming, that we recognize in the larger culture, we are doing the same kind of violence to one another as the violence that says too fat, too straight (hair, of course), too ethnic (wtaf), too Asian, too white – yeah, people, white girls get it too, too fricken’ tall – wth? And on and on endlessly.

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If you have a sister working to love you up until you can love yourself up too, let her tell her story. Please don’t assume that your suffering is more suffering just because more people can relate to your story. That’s a different conversation. We each have stories that allow us to relate and connect with one another and our culture needs us to get to those stories and bring them to light. Challenging the standards. Refusing to accept the story someone lays down on us to the extent that we can reject it and step into sovereignty. We are each the Empress of our inner empire and an Empress doesn’t ask permission to be loved and lovable. She gives herself permission (through a lot of hard fucking work, true.) In that state of inner ruler ship we are also capable of making space for the other leaders around us who have stories of equal power and value to share for the betterment and over health of the realms surrounding us. The realms around us – the external world – is in deep need of strong feminine leadership. Feminine leadership that frees the masculine up to contribute to co-leadership in ways that are healthy and life affirming.

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The outer world will have opinions about who and how we are, and how, who and what we are, equates to worth. We do not have obligation to accept these outside versions of ourselves. And the argument that the world imposes, in spite of how we see ourselves, is true until it bumps against the edge of another truth.

Our inner truth, which takes a tremendous amount of effort, courage and stamina to develop in the face of such convincing opposition. But, it is necessary that we take control of the stories meant to represent us, otherwise we will continue our lives under other people’s direction. And we are not here for that. That is not our design.

Photo Credit: Todd ChamplinIMG_20170422_183238

January 10 at 9:15pm ·

I’m about to write something my liberal friends won’t like reading. And, it’s more difficult because I know people are truly hurting out there, still in shock about the leadership of this country and fearful of how this incoming presidency will impact their right to life. Yeah, I used it hashtagprolifers
If you as a conservative, or trump supporter can’t begin to understand why people are anxious about the outcome of this election, then this post is for you as well.
I watched and listened to a few hours of the confirmation hearings this morning of Jeff Sessions. I did not know the man’s name before today and a few of my southern friends have taken some time to educate me about him. What I came away with, in his hearing, is that he is not a man I would chose for my leadership. Too old school conservative for my preferences. An hour or so in I was also aware that that process of confirmation, being grilled, is grueling, to a human spirit- should be at that level of service, and still, I found myself grateful for the man – I do not remember who it was on the panel, who made it clear, in the sometimes subtle ways that politicians can, that he was a friend of this Sessions. When he spoke to this man’s integrity (not his words but my summary of his intention with his words) I could see the emotion and sense of temporary reprieve that Sessions felt. I saw the muscular facial response to a friend’s words – I could see the tears come up, that he could not release in that very important moment. To be acknowledged for his humanity and his dignity as a human being- his love for his profession. His sense of responsibility to his public service. And I felt for him. I was reminded, viscerally, that alongside his particular brand of crazy- as I see it, he remains human. And for me, if we do not remember the opposition’s humanity as we go into these next four years, we will create more trauma. People are ill informed about our neighbors and so called enemies, people are misguided in our assumptions about the world and misguided in beliefs…but, we are each human. All mistake and poor choice makers. If we are unwilling and unable to set our ego down and listen to another human as we ask them WHY they believe what they believe, know what they believe they know, and feel they have dominion over another, we will never understand anything real about one another. Real, going beyond our racist, classist, sexist, nationalistic, religion dominated fears about THEM. Whomever them happens to be on our own personal radar. And, I know that not everyone, in every disagreeable category of humanity, can have an articulate conversation about how their twisted minds work. Leave those nutcases alone. And, guys, I say twisted, because, as thoughtful as I believe I am, I know people, personally, who think my thinking is off, twisted in some ways, because it’s not a match for theirs. So, how do I stay in relationship with minds that seem in opposition? They have to be good people first. If they make that cut, then, a whole heaven a lot of patience. With myself and with the other. I WANT to understand why people can look at me and think they know more about me and what’s good for me and what I am capable of than I do. It’s not always to help someone see my point of view. Often times it’s to be clear that there are scary thinkers in the world in positions of leadership, influence and power and I am better off having some direct understanding of than basing my understanding on pop-culture references and mental case write-offs. This is one reason I wasn’t shocked in quite the way others were when the election results were announced. I felt like I woke up in the twilight zone for sure, but, I had also had plenty of conversations with intelligent people who were genuinely interested in DT as an option so I understood that the democratic party didn’t have a sure win (and I know the howls are going out in protest of my word choice [intelligent], but this is part of the problem as I see it: Oversimplifying one another because we won’t take the time and tremendous energy and self-restraint involved in understanding something/someone beyond our own understanding and agreement.)

Now. I also know I have friends who won’t consider what I’m suggesting as an option. It’s all guns blazing and offense/defense of the Fortress of Belief and the Sanctity of Humanity. We need these defenders too. We need people and will probably continue to have people on the extreme edges of the conservation of beliefs and the protection of sacred space – liberal, moderate and conservative. And, do not mistake me for a Kumbaya liberal. If I were a law maker/enforcer, I’d be castrating rape offenders. No anesthesia. One trauma for another. I am very biblical about this. I’m pretty sure, as in confident, that I wouldn’t feel bad about it and I wouldn’t shy away from my maker come judgement day. We have had many conversations about this already. I also feel that men have zero business legislating women’s health. I feel there are too many black men incarcerated in this country. I’m not afraid of immigrants. I DO feel that we worship a culture of violence in our country that invites more violence in – and more typically, from already within. I am not opposed to prayer in schools. I can handle being wished Happy Holidays without flipping my shit. I wish people wouldn’t burn the flag, but I understand the historical reason for it as a path of protest. I do not want someone making laws, based on their religious beliefs, that affect my ability to make the right choices for my life. I have a deep affection for military personnel. I believe we give too much power and attention to celebrity culture and too little hands on to our immediate communities – hence the curious situation we find ourselves in…

Look, these folks are moving in. And they are excited. The stereotypes (on all sides) help us stay vigilant and if that’s where your heart and protest truly lies, then fight that good fight. If, however, you have skill for holding the tension of opposites, you are going to be needed now more than ever as what looks like the dismantling and destruction of everything humanitarian and global moves into office. What I’m saying is, we need creative thinkers to work beyond the illusions and bring the truths and solutions forward, into the light.

Beginnings

I continue conversations long after the people I am  speaking with have moved on. I’m slow to think, sometimes slow to speak and not very witty when it counts. I spend a lot of time considering what I’ve heard and watching connections unfold as they do… The awkward conversations are particularly compelling to me. I go for the topics that matter and that we are trained to avoid: religion and spirituality, aging, sexual expression, racial identity and culture. There are so many things that need deep discussion in our culture. There are so many impossibly painful experiences we could transform with the willingness to be uncomfortable in our communication as we sincerely work to understand and be understood. I finally gave in to this blog. The name presented itself some time ago and I didn’t take action. For the usual reasons that we can visit in another post.

Today I took action because it’s time and the inspiration has so patiently awaited my acceptance.

So, we’ll begin with these conversations worth having…